Think of self-care as an investment that can increase your productivity. Tips for women leaders to manage stress.
How often have you been the only woman in a room full of men with the unexpected burden of representing a minority? The feeling that there's little room for error, otherwise it's just another reason why women can't be in leadership positions.
In a world where there are too few women in high levels of leadership, the departure of a female senior leader can have negative consequences on the junior employees, not the least of all, young women who lose out on seeing a senior-level female role model within their organization. The recent exits we have seen at a global level with Susan Wojcicki, Jacinda Ardern and so on, feel highly personal and relatable as well, as it could have been any of the female leaders we know.
Stress is synonymous with being in a leadership position. What is important in this growth of responsibilities and expansion of roles, is that it shouldn't be at the expense of your health and well-being.
Give this consideration - neuroscience tells us that when we are stressed, the amygdala, the area of the brain that sends out the distress signals, gets into motion. This sets off a process that diverts resources from our prefrontal cortex which is responsible for decision making, judgment, problem solving, etc. Ironically, it is precisely when we're feeling stressed and overwhelmed that we would most benefit from slowing down in order to solve the problems that are stressing us out. Wouldn't you rather respond from a place of control rather than just reacting?
Tips For Women Leaders To Manage Stress
As a woman leader, do you feel compelled to be 'strong' all the time? Do you feel that practicing self-care is a sign of weakness, especially in a male dominated world?
Reframe it: Think of self-care as an investment that can increase your productivity. There is power in vulnerability, and you might be surprised how much more effective you are as a leader.
A healthy gut friendly diet: Neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, etc, need a healthy gut in order for efficient synthesis in the body. Hence, for better moods, higher energy levels, better sleep, cut out refined foods, and focus on keeping the internal system clean and healthy.
Exercise: Movement in any form is essential for a life of better quality. Choose what you enjoy doing and stick to it.
One of the biggest concerns for practicing self-care I hear is the lack of time, in an already overfull plate. There is the office team, colleagues, family, school runs, emotional support for friends, social commitments, birthday parties, parents the list is endless. How do you fit it in?
Start small: Even if it is just for ten minutes. Choose not to do one thing in a day that gives you back ten minutes social media scrolling perhaps?
Breathing right: The benefits are enormous. Box breathing, for example, where you inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4, and exhale for 4 counts when done regularly, will help you feel much more relaxed and in control. And it takes only 5 minutes to reset your body.
Make time in your agenda: Identify two or three 10-minute blocks in a day, put that in your calendar and soon, it will become a habit.
Experiment: It could be a walk, meditation, a colouring book, talking to a friend. One might appeal more to you than the other as you try various things.
Blue light and screens: Avoid these before going to bed as they play havoc with your ability to sleep. Conversely, expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day.
Be a role model: As a leader, by practicing self-care, you're helping others see that they have permission to take care of themselves, too.
In today's world, self-care is no longer a luxury; it's part of the job. Especially for women leaders.
The article is contributed by Devayani Vijayan, Functional Wellness Practitioner and Founder, Peak Performers club.
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